With the appointment, just before the Vatican comes to a virtual Summer standstill – of the new heard of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – in times past know as the Universal Inquisition (which never fails to raise hackles in some media) – there is the question: who is Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller?
On the website of his former Diocese of Regensburg we find an extensive biography in English which shows that Bishop Müller is very much the pope’s man. Like Benedict, he is a professor, at home in the world of academia. A former position as professor of Catholic dogmatics at Munich, and since a few years as the official coordinator of the publication of Pope Benedict’s collected works, cements this theological and academical closeness to the Holy Father.
Another aspect of the new prefect’s career coincides with the pope’s priorities of advancing ecumenism with the Orthodox Churches of the East. Within the German Bishop’s Conference, Bishop Müller, who received the personal title of archbishop upon his appointment, was co-responsible for contacts with the Orthodox.
There are more elements in his biography which gel well with his new duties as the Church’s ‘third man’. Succeeding Cardinal Levada, a red hat is a certainty for Bishop Müller, as are the presidencies which come with his new position: those of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, and the International Theological Commission.
Photo credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile
Some strong statements from German bishops these past few days. First Bishop Heiner Koch, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Cologne, reminds us that there are topics that need not be discussed ad infinitum, since they have already been decided upon by the Magisterium. Repeating arguments against, for example, celibacy is nothing but frustrating and ineffective. The bishop states that it is more useful to recognise the boundaries that have been set and avoid fake discussions.
Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, of Essen, later criticised ongoing discussions about female deacons. “The Church has no authority to allow women into the priesthood,” he said. “In this context we should certainly understand the diaconate for women as well.”
Bishop Gerhard Müller (pictured) of Regensburg – a seemingly likely candidate to succeed Cardinal Levada as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – today accused the ‘We are Church’ movements of leading a parasitic existence. The Church must not conform itself to society, but to the Gospel, he said. Applause and decibels can not be used to exert pressure.
These topics – celibacy, the ordination of women, democracy in the Church – are almost standard among opponents of the Church, but few realise that the Church has long since spoken out about these topics. By ignoring these past statements, those who speak about these issues are, wilfully or not, ignorant and guilty of misleading those who hear them. Statements like those by the three German bishops above serve to offer clarification about issues that keep rearing their heads.
Photo credit: Lennart Preiss/dapd